'Dexter' bow finds a million blood brothers

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"Dexter" killed for Showtime in its second-season premiere.

More than 1 million total viewers tuned in to the drama series — which stars Michael C. Hall as a likable forensics expert for the Miami Police Department who moonlights as a serial killer — at 9 p.m. Sunday, according to Nielsen Media Research.

That marks the first time on record that the season premiere of a Showtime series has broken the million-viewer mark for a single run (Nielsen didn't begin reporting Showtime ratings separate from Showtime Plex until 2004).

That figure also represents a 67% increase over the Oct. 1, 2006, series premiere (603,000 viewers) and is nearly on par with the first-season finale in December (1.1 million), which aired at 10 p.m. This season, "Dexter" has moved to 9 p.m., where it airs opposite shows including ABC's "Desperate Housewives."

Showtime has been putting a lot of promotional muscle behind "Dexter" ahead of its second-season bow — including turning the water red in fountains nationwide. The network also offered a free preview weekend from Friday-Monday for nonsubscribers of the premium channel, though those viewers haven't been factored in to the ratings yet.

"Dexter" stands as Showtime's best season premiere year-to-date. By comparison, the series premiere of "The Tudors" drew 869,000 viewers in April, and the third-season debut of "Weeds" averaged 824,000 in August.

An encore airing at 11 p.m. Sunday averaged 414,000 viewers, and a Monday airing averaged 206,000 viewers.

As expected, "Brotherhood" did not fare as well at 10 p.m. Sunday, drawing 371,000 total viewers at 10 p.m. That's off 25% from the series premiere (494,000) on July 9, 2006, and down 63% from its "Dexter" lead-in.

However, it should be noted that Showtime aired a seven-minute promo between the end of "Dexter" and the start of "Brotherhood," which potentially could have led to at least a portion of the drop-off. It's also understood that Showtime executives are high on the Peabody Award-winning series and are hoping to build its audience.

Elsewhere, the season finale of VH1's "Rock of Love With Bret Michaels" pulled in 5.4 million total viewers, including 4.1 million adults 18-49. It scored a 4.0 in the demo, which represents VH1's second-highest-rated telecast in network history.

Meanwhile, Disney Channel set records in the most recent quarter, boosted by "High School Musical 2" and series like "Hannah Montana." The channel delivered the largest third-quarter total-viewer primetime audience ever (3.2 million) for any cable network and the second-largest audience for any quarter in cable history behind sister network ESPN (3.3 million).
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